Refreshment in Refuge
by Gina Burgess
I ran across a blog post that stated the Proverbs Super Woman was unattainable. He (of course it was a he and a pastor) blithely stated that he hoped his wife would read his post because he wanted her to know that no matter what, he loved her and she did not have to be this super woman to have his admiration.
Oh, come on!
That is most commendable, but so erroneous to think that Wonder Woman is unattainable. Absolutely, this Proverbs woman is quite the paragon, but her qualities are not unattainable. She is described as a virtuous woman…excellent woman…capable…noble woman in various translations. But in examining the Hebrew word Chayil, חיל pronounced khah'-yil, which is described as probably a force, whether of men, means or other resources; an army, wealth, virtue,valor, strength: - able, activity as in an army, band of men (soldiers), company, (great) forces, goods, host, might, power, riches, strength, strong, substance, train, (+) valiant (-ly), valor, virtuous (-ly), war, worthy (-ily). We see it is translated more in tune with strength of armies. In the KJV, it is translated two hundred and forty-three times as valiant describing men of valor, riches, or strength. It is the same word used for the character of good, capable judges in Exodus 18:21. We can conclude then that the author of Proverbs 31 was describing a woman made strong by the love of God in wisdom and grace. She is not only capable but she is powerful and her worth is far above rubies. Does that sound unattainable to you? Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.”
These twenty-two verses exemplify the Hebrew way of writing. The point of all that follows is made in the first sentence or two. Then the point is expounded, first the statement of truth, then the explanation of why it is true. In this example, each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet which is similar to Psalm 119. This is a way of stating that an excellent woman is the beginning and end of a husband’s and a family’s delight. She is the center and the light of the home. The woman of the home is like the keel of a ship. She does not command the ship, but without her the ship won’t go where the commander commands.
17 She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
This girding is a term used to indicate protecting the lower back similar to a weightlifter wrapping that leather belt about his lower back and waist. Paul uses it in his description of the full armor of God in Ephesians 6. She practices physical labor and thus her body is strengthened. There was a documentary on Discovery Channel about mummies and one of the mummies was of a female with bones so delicate the slightest pressure could have snapped them into pieces. We were told the owner of those bones had done no physical labor at all, most likely never even stood up for more than a few minutes at a time. She had never lifted anything heavier than a few ounces her entire life so therefore, it was concluded the woman was most likely very rich and a ruler of some sort because everything had been done for her. Not so the perfect woman. It is well documented that physical activity stimulates the production of endorphins which stimulates our sense of well-being. The perfect woman understood this without expressing it in any form other than deed. She is industrious and…
18 She senses that her gain is good; her lamp does not go out at night.
The lamp not going out at night is important for several reasons. I imagine night lights were as useful then as they are now. Coffee tables are not made for shin breakers in the dark, but it seems that this is their primary function. Her lamp not going out, is so significant because the woman of the home is the Light of the home. She is the center and the light of the home. This is why the Hebrew wife lights the candles of the menorah on the Sabbath. The lamp holds special significance because from the woman came Jesus who is the Light of the World. Symbolically, since the woman is the light of the home, and since the mother is the one who brings much comfort to her family, her lamp going out would bring despair upon the home. When bad things happen, why does it always seem they happen at nighttime? David remarked upon this in several of his Psalms. Depression and despair creep in and settle in the corners of our hearts and homes during the dark times of our lives. It is so comforting to have a lamp to dispel this darkness. The mother and wife, no matter her skills, is usually the one to offer comfort to her family during those stressful times. Her strength comes from God Who gives her great comfort. This doesn’t mean that she works all night since this verse follows closely with the lamp not going out. This is meant to show that she keeps the home fires burning… she keeps the oil lamps well stocked as Jesus mentions in the parable of the ten virgins. The five virgins who have extra oil for their lamps and are ready for the Bridegroom whenever He comes (Matthew 25) but the other five allow their lamps to go out and beg to borrow some oil from the prudent virgins to no avail. Prudence and planning are her strengths.
19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle.
She recognizes that she can make clothes and other things for her family which are of far better quality, and usually much less costly than buying them ready made. The distaff and the spindle are tools used to make yarn and thread. These tools are thousands of years old. The Navajo have used them for centuries, long before the white man came here. Fibers are “combed” or aligned parallel, then twisted into yarn with the hands, the spindle helps in twisting and in wrapping the finished product into a usable “ball”. Time consuming? Yes, but with the hands occupied, the mind has the opportunity to meditate on lots of different things. I’m quite sure that during the midst of this mundane task, many women talked with the LORD, had life changing conversations with daughters, taught young sons, made plans for different industries to be carried out the next day, that week, and throughout the year, had enjoyable chats with neighbors and sisters and family. The spindle and distaff are only mentioned once in Scripture. But we know it was a vital part of home industry, as well as business for Lydia made purple cloth. This skill could provide an excellent income for an industrious woman.
20 She extends her hand to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy.
This is another indication of how godly this woman is. This is a command of the Lord in Deuteronomy 15:11. Proverbs 22:9 tells us the one who practices generosity is blessed. Surely, she is blessed and her blessing falls upon her family as a warm blanket. The attitude of her heart is straight from God. Charity begins at home as the saying goes, and Wonder Woman, being a godly woman, will have a heart for missions. She will not just toss money in the offering plate as it passes by, but will give of her time as well as her stores to help make the world a better place, and the needs of the poor to be met. Perhaps James remembers this passage when he penned his admonishment to Christians of his day, James 2:16 and any one of you say to them, Go in peace, be warmed and filled, but does not give them the things the body needs, what gain is it?
Doesn't this sound like things you can do? They aren't hard or incomprehensible. Do the housework, make the beds, but frankly Erma Bombeck said that no one ever died from sleeping in an unmade bed. Keeping the priorities straight and in proper order is the most important thing. Night lights are good for lots of reasons. Mundane work is good to help keep the hands busy while the mind explores regions that only God can fathom. Ministry is good and easy to do when you make time for it. It isn't a suggestion, it is something that Jesus did all His life and He expects us to look like Him and act like Him. With His help we can do this ladies.
Withstanding TemptationRead Article »
She is the author of several books including: When Christians Hurt Christians, The Crowns of the Believers and others available in online bookstores. She authors several columns, using her God-given talent to shine a light in a dark world. You can browse her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.
If you'd like to take a look at some Christian fiction and Christian non-fiction book reviews before the books hit the book store shelves, check out Gina's book reviews at Upon Reflection
Gina is a partner and COO of Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC that owns Authors Community and eBookChristian.com
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